The leadership struggle in Nigeria’s new ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), may have reached a head as prominent leaders of the party failed to turn up for the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on Friday.
Conspicuously absent were the man often considered the animator of the party, Lagos former governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; his close political ally and former pro term chairman of the party, Bisi Akande; Tinubu’s strong acolyte and Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo. Besides, all APC chairmen from the South-west abstained.
Spokesman of the APC, Lai Mohammed, explained away their absence, saying they were not members of NEC and may not have been invited by the National Working Committee (NWC) and NEC whose responsibility it was to extend invitation to NEC meetings.
Regardless, the absence of the key party figures has triggered off excitement in some quarters where it is believed that there is leadership struggle in the APC.
Early indications of this emerged at the outbreak of the National Assembly crisis and mutual suspicion within the party.
Sequel to the emergence of Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively, on June 9, the leaders of the party appeared to have thrown revealing jibes at one another.
The crisis, it would be recalled, deepened when the Senate rejected the party’s choices for the remaining principal offices, by adopting the nominees of the zonal caucuses of the party in the senate for the positions of majority leader, deputy majority leader, and deputy chief whip.
Up till now, the House, which is also sharply divided into two factions, is yet to name its principal officers.
Not long after, Spokesman, Mohammed, claimed in a television programme that President Buhari was not the leader of the APC and that the party has many leaders.
“The President is a product of the party and they are many leaders of the party,” he had said.
Afterwards, the presidency issued a statement insisting that Buhari was leader of the party.
Under the circumstances, critics have interpreted Friday’s absence of the gladiators as indication that the leadership issue was still brewing.
According to observers, the conflict at the National Assembly was crucial enough to warrant the invitation of these leaders to a meeting that would resolve it.
In any case, President Buhari, at the NEC meeting, impressed it on the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, the need to respect party’s supremacy by way of complying with its (party) directive on the selection of principal officers at both chambers of the national assembly.
The president, in his first public personal comments on the crisis made at the opening session of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, in Abuja, on Friday, expressed and reiterated the need for the “warring” lawmakers to respect the supremacy of the party and “put their personal interest in their pockets for the sake of the country’s democracy.”
The President said: “Whatever your personal interests put them in your pocket. Let APC work. Let the system work. I appeal to you to accept the superiority of the party. I cannot confine myself in Sambisa Forest and refuse to participate in the meeting because I respect the superiority of the party.”
“The elections have come and gone and the APC has won the battle and lost the war, this is the paradox of democracy and we can see how we are going to manage it.
“I have a worthy appeal to you, the chairman, to you the leadership of the party, to you the senators and members of the House of Representatives, and to you the governors, that the APC must not disappoint our constituencies and the nation state.
“We thank God in four years we have to convince our constituencies that we are individually worthy of the sacrifices they have made. We stayed awake days and nights, travelling around to make sure that the party emerge victorious.”
“What subsequently happen is human, and as human beings, we are not perfect but let our collective action in this party rule because we have won the election and we will eventually win the war.”
Buhari emphasised that the party remained superior to any member since it was on its platform that “they” were elected.
His words: “As for me as a president, I have to clearly understand the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the constitution of APC, and having tried three times and successfully lost three times and successfully ending up at the Supreme Court, I think I have tasted the bitter disappointments and the sweetness of success.”
“What happened to APC must be given to God almighty. The opposition party has ruled the country for sixteen years, with all the treasuries literally in their pockets and all the coercing forces in their command, but they still meekly conceded defeat. We congratulate them for that.
“I clearly understand the constitution from which INEC was developed with clear terms of reference and one of its important responsibilities is to register political associations as political parties, and whoever wants to participate in elective office as a Nigerian must seek a platform and that platform is the political party, hence the superior state of the parties. APC has been damn lucky. If I can use that.”
Speaking on the sideline of the meeting, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Lai Mohammed, stated that the NEC meeting had provided an enabling environment to look into ways of resolving the National Assembly logjams, adding that the governors elected under the platform of APC will be meeting with the speaker and the senate president in a further attempt to find a lasting solution to the lingering logjam at the national assembly.
“It is important to let you know that everybody in the party is united on two issues which are party supremacy and the need to ensure that this government delivers its campaign promises,” he said.
When asked whether the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives will now consider the position of the party on the selection of principal officers in both chambers of the National Assembly, Mohammed said: “I have told you that the NEC has provided a platform to resolve this issue and part of the resolution is the meeting that will be held today between the governors, the senate president, and the speaker of the House of Representatives. The president said he believes in party supremacy, we have a problem on our hands and we must find the best means to resolve it. One thing I can assure you is that this house (the APC) shall not fall.”
When asked to comment on when to draw a line between party’s supremacy and the sanctity of the country’s constitution in the selection of principal officers at the national assembly, Mohammed said: “The less said about this logjam the better it’ll be not for only this party but the whole nation. It is for the interest of everyone who voted for change. I would not want to go into the knitty gritty of what the resolution will be because as I speak for now I don’t know. When you talk about party’s supremacy, it is derived from the constitution.
When asked why notable chieftains of the party like Bola Tinubu and Bisi Akande were absent from the meeting, Mohammed said: “Invitation to the meeting was at the discretion of the NWC or NEC who to invite or not, and it is not out of respect to question why they are not here, but the bottom line is that neither of them are members of the exco of the party.
Those who attended the meeting were President Muhammadu Buhari, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Speaker House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara, Yobe state governor, Ibrahim Gaidam, Kastina state governor Aminu Bello Masari, Plateau state Governor, Simon Lalong, Ogun state governor Abikunle Amosun, Niger state governor Abubakar Sani Bello, Adamawa State governor, Jibrilla Bindow.
Others were Lagos state governor Akinwumi Ambode, Kano state governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, Governor of Sokoto state, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, state governor Atiku Bagudu, Edo state governor, Adams Oshiomole, Governor of Zafara state, Abdulaziz Yari, Imo state governor, Rochas Okorocha.
Also in attendance were the Deputy governors of Bauchi, Nasarawa, Borno, Kwara, Kebbi, Sen. Ahmed Lawal, and Hon Femi Gbajabiamila.
-Daily Independent


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